Study reveals back pain major source of absence from work

A new poll reveals that one in five people who suffer from back pain have had to give up work or reduce their hours due to the condition

The new poll, carried out for Medserena Upright Open MRI Centres to mark Backcare Awareness Week (8-12 October 2018) found that, contrary to popular belief, back pain is just as common amongst younger age groups as the elderly – and results show home and work lives are being affected:

  • Over half of those polled (52%) said their back pain troubled them at least several times a month, with 56% describing it as either somewhat or very severe.
  • One in seven suffer every day.
  • Nearly half (48%) said their problems had been going on for more than five years.
  • Another fifth have been forced to give up a favourite past-time such as sport
  • An estimated 2.5 million people experience back pain every day in the UK, whilst treating it costs the NHS more than £1 billion a year
  •  61% of people aged over 55 had back pain at least once a month, the figure for 18-24 year olds was even higher at 71%.

Managers suffer more than manual workers

Surprisingly, researchers found those in higher managerial jobs suffer more from back pain than manual workers.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of top professionals experience pain at least once a month, compared with around 53% of manual workers – although skilled and semi-skilled workers are more likely to say their condition was caused by lifting heavy loads.

Management, on the other hand, attribute their back pain to bad posture over time – and take more days off sick for this reason than any other type of employee.

Over a third of sufferers don’t seek medical advice

Despite the prevalence of back pain, the poll found that over a third (34%) of those affected hadn’t sought advice from a medical professional – albeit the likelihood of consulting a GP or specialist increases steadily with age.

Only a fifth (19%) had undertaken an MRI scan, with just under a quarter (24%) having an X Ray.

Men were significantly more likely to have a scan or other test than women.

Juliana Hyka, Radiology Manager of Medserena said claustrophobia could be the cause.  She said:

“Interestingly, our survey showed that 17% of people with back pain also suffer from claustrophobia”,  comments, “with women more prone to it than men – yet only 5% said they had been offered an upright open MRI scan for diagnosis.   Not surprisingly, 46% said they would prefer to stand up or sit down in a scanner which is open at the front – compared to just 19% who would opt for lying down in an enclosed tunnel”.
Medication was the most popular form of treatment for back pain, taken by 47% of respondents.

A third had been treated by a practitioner such as an osteopath or physiotherapist, whilst a quarter had taken to their bed for rest.  However, 27% hadn’t bothered with treatment at all, opting to grin and bear it.

Just 14% of top professionals said they had received no treatment, whereas the figure for semi-skilled or unskilled manual workers was 36% (not even painkillers).

About Medserena

The Medserena Centres in London and Manchester offer upright, open MRI scans which are very different to the conventional ‘tunnel’.

The scans are carried out in a natural weight-bearing position.  You can stand up, sit down, flex your neck and be moved into different postures – so the scan is carried out in exactly the position that pain is experienced.  In many cases, this provides a more conclusive diagnosis of back pain than traditional MRIs that are performed lying down.

The open structure is ideal for anyone suffering from claustrophobia and also accommodates very large patients – up to 35 stone – more easily than the tunnel type.